Preview: ‘Dark Judges Deliverance’ – In Ssssspace, The Dark Judgessss Can Hear You Sssscream
by Richard Bruton
Continuing their reinvention of the Dark Judges from comedy extras to genuine terrors, David Hine and Nick Percival’s Dark Judges: Deliverance gets a digital collection.
When we last left the Dark Judges at the end of The Torture Garden, we had seen Judges Death, Fire, and Mortis, later joined by Judge Fear (thanks to those oh-so-helpful marines coming to the ‘rescue’, go through the colony on Dominion like a good dose of salts – and give Judge Death a burning hatred of Wordsworth.
It all ended with Dominion destroyed and Death was trapped in a Boing tube – and all seemed well. But of course, there’s no way the good times are going to last…
So, as the survivors from Dominion make their way back to Earth on the SS Kimodo, the Navis Mortis – ‘Ship of Death’, the flagship of the Mortarian Death Cult, is heading the opposite way. And somewhere in that vast space between the two, you have Judge Death immobilised in a Boing tube.
There’s absolutely no prizes for anyone in working out where this one’s going and there’s no spoilers here in telling you that Deliverance sees the Dark Judges return and the survivors of Dominion wondering just what the hell they’ve done so wrong in a previous life to be quite this unlucky.
But even though you may know where it’s going, that doesn’t stop this one being a damn fine horror show.
It’s something really dark, yet also has a vein of richly black humour running through it, a balancing act that many have tried (and failed) to get right in the past. Hopefully, the days of Judge Death et. al. being comedic relief are long gone. These really are a quartet to give you nightmares and this extended run of The Dark Judges has really brought them back into 2000 AD as a terrifying force to be reckoned with.
David Hine’s writing here is lyrical but tight, there’s action, there’s tension, there’s a dash of over-the-top ridiculousness, there’s comedy moments – but it’s all done with a delicate balance that makes the laughter a nervous laughter, the sort that happens just before you know you’re getting ready to scream.
Frankly, it’s obvious that Hine enjoys writing them, gets the gag, never overplays it, and delivers some spot-on lines… just like this one…
And of course, a huge part of what makes The Dark Judges so terrifying here is the beautifully grotesque artwork of Nick Percival, an artist whose style really does suit this strip better than anything else he’s done in 2000 AD.
His Dark Judges have an edge to it, they move with menace, unnatural shapes coalescing, made even more so through Deliverance when he debuts the new, absolutely vile, alien bodies for the quartet. He draws The Dark Judges as things from your nightmares… just like this…
And if that’s not enough to give you nightmares… let’s go a little closer on that one…
THE DARK JUDGES – DELIVERANCE – Digital collection, written by David Hine, art by Nick Percival, letters by Annie Parkhouse
Published by 2000 AD & Rebellion on 7th September 2022.
Originally serialised in Judge Dredd Megazine #424-433
Now… a preview? I’d say don’t have nightmares… but…